Chinese Lantern Fire Was 20 Years Ago

Flames erupt from the upper windows and roof of the Chinese Lantern shortly after 7 a.m. on Jan. 16, 1994 as firefighters pour water into the three-story structure from their hoses and aerial trucks. Twelve units and up to 50 firefighters were at the scene in downtown Duluth. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the landmark Chinese Lantern restaurant in downtown Duluth. The fire on Jan. 16, 1994, burned “one of the places – like the Aerial Bridge, like Glensheen – that comes to mind when people think of Duluth,” the News Tribune reported the next day.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the fire story that appeared in the Jan. 17 DNT:

“The Chinese Lantern, a landmark supper club popular among Northland residents and visitors for 30 years, caved into a shambles of scorches timbers and ice in little more than three hours early Sunday.

Up to 50 firefighters were called out in 18-below weather at 5:45 a.m., battling a downtown Duluth fire of unknown origin that started in the kitchen and quickly burst through the rooftop in a wall of flames that threatened the lives of a dozen firefighters inside. …

Owner Wing Ying Huie opened the Chinese Lantern in 1964 at the Superior Street level of the Palladio Building, immediately behind the structure that burned. He was following a Huie family tradition of serving authentic Chinese specialties that began when his father, Joe Huie, opened a restaurant near the entrance of Canal Park in the early 1900s.”

Go to this Attic post from 2008 for more of the story and additional photos: Chinese Lantern fire

Jan. 17, 1994: Workers remove heavy items from the wreckage of the Chinese Lantern a day after a fire destroyed the downtown Duluth restaurant. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

After the fire, the building was repaired and a half-dozen bars and/or restaurants tried to make a go of it at that location: Blue Water Bar & Grill. Bella Vita Ristorante. Champps Americana. Duluth Athletic Club Bar & Grill. Score Sports Bar & Grill. R Bar. None lasted for the long haul.

In late 2011, it was announced that the Minnesota WorkForce Center, Duluth Workforce Development and partner agencies would move into the entire vacant building, ending – for now – any attempts to try yet another restaurant at that location.

Share your memories of the Chinese Lantern – or any other long-gone Duluth restaurant – by posting a comment.

9 Responses

  1. Karen

    We loved going there when we were in Duluth. Food was so delicious and the servings were huge.
    I’ve never found another Chinese restaurant that had that kind of atmosphere or that kind of food.
    Hard to believe it’s been gone 20 years.

  2. My parents sometimes lamented the loss of this place. I wasn’t even 2 years old when it burned down. Really sad I never got to see it for myself. Can’t find any pictures of the interior on the internet.

  3. Jerry P

    I have a menu from the original Joe Huei’s that was located on Lake Avenue. It’s bright red and still has a few grease stains. I’ve thought about listing it on e-bay.

  4. Rick Scruggs

    Amazing place! Went there almost every summer for about 6 years. Dad would drive to Duluth, get a new suit at Foreman & Clark; ” Walk upstairs and save, walk downstairs and smile…” Lunch at Chinese Lantern, Skyline Drive, Minnesota Point and Aerial Lift Bridge, dinner at Galaghers, then drive home! Great memories!

  5. Bob H

    My wife and I were married in Duluth in 1981 and since we did not have a meal at our reception, we ate a late night dinner at the Lantern. Still remember that special meal. The Lantern had the best Chinese food anywhere!

  6. Bob P

    I worked at the original Chinese Lantern on Superior St. We had many celebrities come in. I remember the rock group the Monkees coming in for a meal. At the restaurant on first street they had many signed photos of all the celebrities who dined at the restaurant. Sorry to say those are gone. Very good food and good people to work with.

  7. Jim Saranpaa

    The Lantern had the best prime rib in the region in it’s day. Very generous portion and I ate it all. The UMD Hoop Club and the UMD Blueline Club held a joint noon luncheon upstairs with the UMD coaches Dale Race and Mike Sertich. Visiting team coaches Jim Smith of St. Johns and Jackie Parker of Boston University also spoke, but it was Smith who regularly brought down the house with his wit and humor. It was great to have both sports together and for the event to be held at the Lantern. I was saddened when I learned of it’s burning and then no plans to rebuild.

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